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This Working Group aimed to understand the role of fire in the Earth System and to quantify the vulnerability of ecosystems to changes in fire. It is a component of the IGBP cross-project Fire Task, which developed from the IGBP Fast Track Initiative (FTI) on fire. The FTI held its final meeting in 2006 with QUEST support. Ongoing work planned at that meeting included model simulations to quantify the implications of natural and human-set fire for vegetation composition and structure, atmospheric chemistry (e.g. tropospheric ozone), and ocean productivity. QUEST scientists also produced the first observation-based global fire regime map from remotely sensed products. Two palaeofire subgroup workshops have assembled a global database of palaeofire from sedimentary charcoal and compared the results with simulations, showing how climate change since the last glacial maximum has been a definitive influence on fire regimes, and providing an innovative test of models.

A proposed extension concerns the application of fire modelling to the tasks of fire management for risk prevention, conservation and enhancement of carbon stocks. A workshop brought together experts from ecology and forestry together with climate project developers and modellers to discuss controversial issues, such as: What forms of fire management have succeeded? Can fire management increase carbon stocks, or will it simply increase the risk of carbon release? What is the impact of fire suppression or active fire management on biodiversity? What forms of community engagement will ensure successful fire management?

Leaders: Wolfgang Knorr, Sandy Harrison

Co-sponsor: IGBP

QUEST links: Theme 1 (Feedbacks QUEST, QESM), Theme 2 (QUEST Deglaciation), Theme 3 (Fire-MAFS)

Other UK links: NCEO

International links: IGBP Fire Task, NCEAS Pyrogeography Working Group


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